Afternoon Snack: Shawn Colvin “Viva Las Vegas”

Lots of activity here the past few days, so I have a lot with which to catch up.

My last 72 hours have largely been at the point of some form of distraction at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Winter Convention, which is always held in the strange city in the midst of the Nevada Desert.

It is always a lot of fun going, even though Las Vegas just seems stupid to me (on the money you spend to go to Las Vegas New York, and maybe lose gambling, you could just go to New York?) especially since I neither gamble nor drink.

This year was particularly great as our good friend Jeff Erickson was inducted into the Fantasy Writers Hall of Fame, and there is always a trip to the truly miraculous “Lotus of Siam” restaurant with Jeff and his Rotowire colleagues, Chris Liss, Derek Van Riper, and Tim Schuler.

As we were on route to one of the meals we had, I noted how the casino at the Bellagio seemed kind of dead compared to past years, and Jeff noted that Vegas was indeed hurting. He said that the next generation of adults coming up were all weaned on video games and the idea of paying to visit a place to play Black Jack or Craps when at worst you could do that online. And, at best there are any other number of games to play, for profit, or not.

So, in  honor of the palate of the human spectacle the three days wrought–friendship, food, congratulations, potential economic meltdown, desperation–I tried to think of a Vegas-based tune to represent the time.

Obviously Elvis’ rendition Viva Las Vegas  came to mind first, but I played some Elvis on his birthday. Then, there is Sheryl Crow’s Leaving Las Vegas. Crow’s song is actually pretty good, as is she, though it took a while for her to win me over. But, Sheryl Crow is a pretty good singer/songwriter, and even pretty strong musician.

But then I remembered the fine Shawn Colvin treatment of Viva, which was Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, from the movie The Big Lewbowski,  and that nailed it.

This version abides.

3 thoughts on “Afternoon Snack: Shawn Colvin “Viva Las Vegas”

  1. I’m posting the Elvis Presley version, because that’s the song Pomus and Shuman wrote. Shawn Colvin’s version is fine for the slowed down take, but she is one of a number of associations that bubble up like the bongos on this song.

    A friend of mine who aspired to be a songwriter applied to be Doc Pomus’s assistant, a job which included lifting the sizable man out of his wheel chair. She instead got the job of friend and protege, much less pay but better work. At the same time, I was hanging out with Willy and Toots Borsey, because my girlfriend went to high school with them, and I think coincidentally (thought I could be wrong) Willy started writing songs with Pomus, which was a perfect fit.

    I spent many nights at clubs like the Lone Star and Kennys Castaways sitting with Doc, and while sitting we talked about music, though what he and I shared most was a love for poker. I would tell stories about trying to eke out a living playing four or five nights a week, and he would tell stories about playing in games that were taken down by guys with guns. Save the last dance for me, but it was all gambling. Right?

    The ultimate connection, one night we were at Willy and Toots’ apartment and we needed something, I don’t remember what. It might have been flour, it could have been burgundy, but it could have been harder stuff. Willy and I walked over to Shawn Colvin’s apartment, a walk I remember because he told me along the way how much he admired Don Van Vliet’s guitar playing, I think he called it the best he’d ever heard, as we walked across Abingdon Square.

    In Colvin’s apartment there was a nice conversation, an exchange, but also a menagerie of lizards, particularly some large iguanas. My gal Catherine and I had a huge iguana named Lee who lived on top of our instant on portable TV, warmest spot in the house, so there was plenty to talk about. (Okay, it’s not a great Shawn Colvin story, but I was there FWIW.)

    One night, at the Lone Star, I was sitting with Doc when Mort Shuman walked by. They had been divorced for a good while. At that point I knew Shuman, because I was working for a foreign film distributor and he was writing soundtracks and songs for French films and Johnny Halladay, more as a French rock ‘n’ rollair than as Pomus’ partner on all those great songs. (Though I knew about their partnership, too.)

    It would end this story perfectly if I remembered what Doc said after they did their air kisses and fake catching up. But I don’t, except there wasn’t bitterness. At least it didn’t seem so. Anger, hatred maybe, but no bitterness.

    And that’s sweet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.